I’m a bastard when it comes to cannabis in media. Like, a seriously stubborn curmudgeon, as likely to criticize TV and movies designed for the High Times crowd and their over-the-top tie-dyed kind bud nostalgia-mongering as I am to knock products and entertainment specifically styled for vapehappy business-class stoners.
But for Cooking on High, the new Netflix show—which, as you probably already guessed from the title, brings cannabis into the Top Chef and Chopped sphere—I am making an exception. It’s not the most polished show streaming, but it is pretty damn picture-perfect in its tone and approach, and that’s quite an accomplishment considering how often other marijuana media misses the mark.
Your host is Josh Leyva, who is technically still best known for the moronic YouTube clip “Annoying My Girlfriend.” He’s rough around the edges but gets the job done, largely because he is hardly different from the bums like me sitting at home watching along. There’s no doubt that certain viewers will get jealous, perhaps wondering why they were not afforded such an opportunity to hang around with hipsters in cool hats while smoking weed and eating for a Netflix show. Those people should pack their bags and head out to Los Angeles, because if they have something, anything, funny to say about bud and grub, there is a chance that they can land on an upcoming episode. The guests aren’t full-blown famous, at least not in the traditional sense—the first installment features Cali music man Mod Sun and comedian Ramon Rivas II—and that’s a real bonus as well. If the show featured the likes of Tom Cruise eating activated hors d’oeuvres, then the inevitable focus would be on his subsequent behavior and little else.
And yes, the guests actually do get super high. Some show up stoned, then after consumption they even take a break from the filming for the edibles to kick in. This makes for some serious antics and, I would argue, great television—from the specific stories told by judges about past experiences they’ve had with unpredictably high doses to a generally strong and natural dialogue throughout. There are some corny jokes for sure, but overall this is about as far as you can get from the insipid tortured humor you’d find on a typical reality show.
Do you have to be stoned to enjoy this? Of course not. On the other hand, should you be stoned while watching it? Yeah, probably. I mean, why not? As for whether Cooking on High will help transform you into a master marijuana chef in minutes—not exactly, but the talent really does make an attempt to explain what the hell is going on. Even for a longtime amateur weed cook like me, their weed 101 tips are appreciated, while procedural explainers like one on the decarboxylation process are handled quite well.
Otherwise, it’s not exactly cutthroat; asked about a stint he also did on Chopped, one Cooking on High contestant, chef Luke Reyes, says of the former, “It’s a pretty competitive show.” As in, the latter isn’t. That’s fine, because there’s something bigger than a competition going on here. While similar shows have killed on the internet for years, Cooking on High sparks an arrival on a higher level, and is obviously only the beginning. I mean, how long until there are shows like this on HGTV?
In the meantime, it’s nice to have some entertainment like this that is real; one contestant, chef Andrea Drummer, is the owner of a dispensary license who is working to get her own operation up and running. She’s also a woman of color, and it should be acknowledged that Cooking on High does a commendable job of showcasing the diverse shades of the industry.
You probably won’t be watching this show for the woke moments; nevertheless, don’t sleep on it.